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Chapter 48

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Manasseh and Ephraim (ch. 48:1 - 22)


In verses 1 and 2 we note that Jacob was now very ill so Joseph took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim to visit Jacob.  Jacob was so sick that he could hardly sit up in bed.


In verse 3 Jacob says that God Almighty appeared to him.  "God Almighty" is "El Shaddai" which most scholars see as "the all-powerful one who looks after His people".  The earliest meaning to "Shaddai" seems to be "the mountain one".  This suggests strength.  Yet many scholars say the word means "breasted one".  Whether the word came to be understood as "breasted one" or it was that in the beginning has been debated.  Still, the present meaning suggests a combination of both.  That is, "the almighty breasted one who looks after His people."    


In verses 3 and 4 Jacob reminds Joseph what God reminded him of years ago, which was, the promises made to Abraham in what we call the 'Abrahamic Covenant".  The specific promises that Jacob sights here are;  Israel being fruitful, numerous, and receiving the land as God promised.  We note here and elsewhere that the promise of land is forever.  The land promise therefore was never taken back by God.  Israel has never received all the land promised to them, but will at the end of this age when Jesus returns and gives it to them. 


The idea of Israel 's greatness is linked to them having a certain portion of land.  You cannot separate this land grant from God from Israel being a great nation.  The issue of land is important and any attempt by nations of the world to change this will be met with God's judgment. 


We note that in verse 5 Jacob actually adopts Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.  He says that they will be just as Rueben and Simeon are.  Rueben and Simeon are Jacob's first born sons from Leah. 


This adoption is important to know and understand.  Throughout the Bible we always see the term "the twelve tribes of Israel".   The twelve tribes are Jacob's twelve sons.  But, we have a problem here.  Jacob now adopts two sons, giving him fourteen sons.  So what is going on here?  In the future the tribe of Simeon becomes part of the tribe of Judah.  Also the tribe of Levi becomes priests and is incorporated into all the other tribes.  Thus, two of the fourteen tribes drop off the list of fourteen, leaving twelve.  There are some listing of these tribes that don't include Joseph because Joseph is seen in Manasseh and Ephraim.  This list include Simeon, keeping the number at twelve. 


We might note at this point the list of the twelve tribes in Revelation 7 don't include the tribe of Dan. Many scholars have said over the years that the anti-christ actually comes out of the tribe of Dan. The tribe of Dan was the first tribe to introduce cult worship in Israel. 


Another thing we might want to note is that there are many listings of the twelve tribes of Israel and they are not all the same.  There are many variations.  The one in Revelation 7 as I've already mentioned is one of these listings.  Whatever the case, and however the twelve tribes are listed, there are always twelve tribes. 


I'd like to point out the word "adopt".   Ephraim and Manasseh were not full fledged Jews.  Joseph's wife was an Egyptian, a Gentile.  So here we have one of the patriarchs of Israel including Gentiles into the people of God.  I see this as prophetic.  In Christ, God has adopted Gentiles into His people.   This is what the church is all about.  You might says that in Ephraim and Manasseh, God took a people out of the world for Himself, just as He has been doing for the last two thousand years in what some call the "church age".  


In verse 6 Jacob says that if Joseph has any more children, they will be his, but will be considered under the lineage of Manasseh and Ephraim.  Notice Jacob mentions the distribution of land to the twelve tribes.  There was such a distribution that took place later on in history when Israel was rising to the top of its existence in Joshua's day.  Yet, this might also have future prophetic significance, meaning, when Jesus hands the land over to Israel at the end of this age, the land might well be divided at that time as well, as I presently believe it will be. 


In verses 7 and 8 Jacob reminds Joseph of the time when Rachel.  Rachel was his second wife, the one he loved most.  Since she died while traveling Jacob buried her in Bethlehem instead of at Hebron where the family tomb was. 


In verse 9 Joseph says to Jacob that Manasseh and Ephraim are the sons God gave him while in Egypt .  We need to remember at this point that Joseph, and Israeli, married an Egyptian, a Gentile.  Such marriages were not permitted by God, but at times, God sets aside His own rule for His own sovereign plan.  He can to this.  We can't.  Therefore, the two sons are part Jew and part Gentile.  It's like God took two men out of the Gentile nations and incorporated them into Israel, and really, that is what the church is all about.  God takes a portion of the Gentile world and incorporates them into the Jewish tree as Paul states in his discourse on Jews in Romans 9 through 11.  This tells me that the whole story of Joseph being in Israel is just as much prophetic as it is historical.


From verses 9 through 16 we see Jacob blessing Joseph's two sons as well as Jacob blessing Joseph.    This is the picture in a nutshell.  Joseph places the two boys before his father Jacob.  Jacob should have reached out his right hand to bless the oldest son.  That's known as the "blessing of the first born".   This was the tradition of Israel of old, but on occasion it got switched around by the providence of God, as it was with Jacob and Esau. 


Jacob reached out his right hand to bless Ephraim, the younger, and his left hand was extended towards Manasseh, the oldest.  It should have been the other way around.  Jacob was actually giving the blessing of the first born to the second born.  Joseph thought that his father was making a mistake because of his bad eye-sight, but it was no mistake.  Jacob meant it to be this way and Joseph was quite upset.


In verse 11 you can see how appreciative Jacob is.  He says that he never expected to see Joseph's face again, but God has not only allowed him to see Joseph's face but two of Joseph's son's faces as well.  Jacob was an old man who was once resigned to depression, but God had revived his spirit at the end of his life, and you can certainly tell how thankful he was for that. How thankful will we be when we get old?


Verse 12 tells us that Joseph removed his two sons from Jacob's knees.  There are a couple of things to note here.  One thing is the age of the boys.  The text seems to suggest that the boys are young because Joseph removed them from Jacob's knees, but most scholars say that can't be so if you do the math.  These two boys might well be in their late teens.  The question is then asked, "what were the boys doing on Jacob's knees?"  There might be an answer.  In some cultures back then there was a ceremony when a man adopted children. He would place them between his legs or knees.  This was symbolic of the children coming from his own body.  This might well be what was happening here. 


The blessings from Jacob begin in verse 15.  When we see blessings from the patriarchs in the Bible, they are inspired and can normally be taken as prophetic.  This is one rule of Bible prophecy.  So what Jacob is about to say is important, not just for those he is speaking to but for prophetic reasons as well.


Verse 15 speaks of the God who Jacob serves.  He is "Elohim", the God of his father Isaac, and his father Abraham.  He has been Jacob's Shepherd all of his life.  Jacob is recognizing the importance that God has been in his life, right up unto that very day.  That being said, Jacob was human, and he did not always serve his God in the way God would want to be served, but that is the  way with us all.  We really can't blame Jacob too much for his humanity.  Yet, here at the end of his life, He IS acknowledging his God as he should.


In verse 16 Jacob acknowledges "the Angel who has delivered him from all harm."  You will note that the NIV capitalizes the word "Angel".  I assume they do this because they believe this "Angel" to be pre-incarnate Jesus.  Most scholars do believe this.  When you see the term "angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament, that usually refers to the pre-incarnate Jesus.  There's not too much debate on this point.  Although this text does not use the term "angel of the Lord", the context seems to suggest that this angel is the "angel of the Lord", meaning, pre-incarnate Jesus, thus the capital on the word "Angel".


Jacob's prayer is that this "Angel", that's Jesus, would bless both Manasseh and Ephraim.  I am sure that God answered this prayer, and I believe history has, and will bear this out.


Jacob goes on to say, "may they, that is, the boys, be called by both his name and the name of his father Isaac and his father Abraham.  There's no debate there.  This is, and was clearly the case.


The last phrase in verse 16 says, "may they increase in numberů"  This is a confirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant that has been confirmed many times in the book of Genesis since it was first spoken to Abraham in Genesis 12.  The Abrahamic Covenant is referred to throughout the Old Testament. That tells us how important it is.  God confirmed His covenant to Israel many times in the Old Testament.  It was an eternal covenant.  God has never, or will never change His mind concerning what He promised Abraham, even though many Bible teachers say He has done just that.  This covenant was an eternal covenant.  It will last forever as the Bible clearly states.


We see in verses 17 and 18 where Jacob places his right hand on Ephraim's head.  The right hand was used for the blessing of the first born.  Joseph took Jacob's hand from Ephraim and placed it on Manasseh since he was the first born.  He thought for sure that Jacob made a mistake, and he was quite upset about it.  Jacob mane no mistake.  This was a prophetic event.  God had His hand in this.  Only God, as He has done before, can go against the traditions that He Himself has actually instituted.  We have seen time and time again how God does the unexpected.  He is not always traditional in what He does.


We do have to see this whole event as being from God.  It's not simply Jacob's desire here.  As in all the blessings we've seen by the fathers of Israel so far in Genesis, they are prophetic.  These blessings are actually stating God's will and plans for those who are being blessed.  


In verse 19 Jacob, in no uncertain words, tells Joseph that this is no mistake.  Yes, Manasseh will be great, but Ephraim will be even greater.  We often see Ephraim's name in the Old Testament as a substitute for the name of Israel.  That is, Israel on many occasions is called Ephraim. Israel is never called Manasseh. 


The last phrase in verse 19 says that Ephraim will become "a group of nations'.  This did come true when Israel split in two.  Ten tribes went to the north and was called the "northern kingdom", and was also known as Ephraim.  The "southern kingdom" was often called Judah.


Verse 20 continues the blessing.  Jacob says, "in your name will Israel pronounce this blessing; May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh."   I am not really sure at this point what this means.  When the text says, "in your name", does that mean Joseph's name.  And when the text refers to Israel, does that mean Israel, as in the nation, or Israel, as in Jacob?


The blessing goes on to say, "may God make you  like Manasseh and Ephraim.  If the one needing to be like the two sons is Joseph, I can see how that would be.  These two sons became more important in some respects than Joseph.  Their names are listed in the twelve tribes of Israel at times when Joseph's name isn't.  Still, I'm not one hundred percent sure of the meaning to these words at this moment in time.


In verse 21 Jacob states that he is about ready to die.  He then says to Joseph, "God will take you back to the Land of Canaan ."  In Hebrew the word "you" is plural.  Jacob is not merely saying that Joseph will return to Canaan, but all Israel will return to Canaan as they did, and as they will again at the end of this age.


Verse 22 closes this chapter with yet another prophecy to Joseph.  Once Israel returns to Canaan Jacob says that he will give Joseph a specific peace of land.  Of course Jacob would not be  alive when this would take place, so one might wonder how Jacob could give land to Joseph when Joseph wasn't near the land to get it, and when Jacob didn't possess the land, and when Jacob would even be alive when the land was possessed by his descendents.  It is all prophetic. Israel never really got all the land that was promised by God in the Abrahamic Covenant.  They got some of the land, and the land in which they got, in Joshua's day was portioned out  to the twelve tribes.  This is the beginning of these things and this portioning of land that took place decades later. 


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